Unulasi shuddered in disgust. The man kneeling before her was not visually repulsive. His eyes were warm and brown. His smile was wide and white. His soul… Unulasi shuddered again. There were crazed murderers in the dungeons below and hired killers in the barracks on the hill whose souls shone brighter than his.
“Novice,” the head of their order, Dame Jocel, said quietly as she glared at Unulasi through a glittering veil. “Have you forgotten your vows so soon?”
“I am but a novice,” Unulasi looked past the man, hoping he would choose another. “My blessings will not see you as far.”
“Who is more sincere than a novice?” The man gave an arrogant laugh. “Your blessing will hold me for moons to come.”
Unulasi looked at Dame Jocel, who nodded. Unulasi realized she saw the same darkness in the man.
“Sir,” Unulasi steeled herself before placing her hands on his shoulders. She tried to think of a verse to suit his need. “May the light of the moon guide you and the stars be a blanket upon you in the cold darkness that purses our lights.”
“Novice!” Dame Jocel sounded scandalized.
“No harm, great one,” the man placated Jocel with smiles. “The novice has given me the greatest gift a fighting man could hope for. I shall charge more fiercely into battle knowing I will not survive.”
“I’m sorry,” Unulasi muttered as he stood up. Dame Jocel and the others in the rotunda wove blessings and farewells for the doomed man.
“Save your pity and your prayers for the enemy,” he said and gave her a wink.
Later that evening, Unulasi trailed along behind her fellow novices as they made their way from evening prayers in the temple to the dorms. Despite all the prayer and purification, she still felt dirty from her encounter with the man. His eyes were etched on her inner eyelids. His smile flashed just beyond the edge of her sight.
“Better not let one of the Dames catch you mooning over an out-lander,” her roommate, Lily, teased as she finally strolled into their tiny cell.
“What?” Unulasi’s mind went into a panic. “Mooning? Me? No! Nooo no!”
Lily giggled and changed into her nightclothes.
“I wasn’t mooning!” Unulasi became indignant. “That man was disgusting!”
“He was very handsome,” Lily said as she climbed into the upper bunk.
“His soul was darker than any I’d ever seen,” Unulasi’s voice was thoughtful as she prepared for bed. “It was almost as if nothing was there.”
“There will be more,” Lily shrugged and yawned. “The war has just begun in earnest. No doubt we will see much worse.”
“They come to us for blessings,” Unulasi frowned at the lower bunk. “Yet they ignore our teachings of peace.”
“Get some rest,” Lilly said dozing off. “Tomorrow the injured will flood through our gates and there may not be rest for a moon or two.”
“Good night,” Unulasi blew out the lanterns and crawled into bed.
Unulasi blinked until her eyes adjusted to the darkness. She could see the outline of their wardrobe, the small desk they shared, and the man crouched at the foot of her bed.
“Lily!” she squealed and rolled onto the floor. She got to her feet in a comical flailing of sheets and hair.
The man stood up, but did not approach her.
“Lily!” she said again, louder. Her roommate did not stir.
“I’ve done this before,” a familiar voice sighed. “I know to put a sleeping spell on the roommate or the sister.”
The man paused and stepped toward her, “Or the husband.”
“I won’t comply,” Unulasi raised her hands to summon her power.
“I told you,” the man shook his head and opened the wardrobe. “I’ve done this before. “
“The Dames will notice,” she said, trying again to summon some power. “You will be caught before we make the gate.”
“You are amusing,” the man chuckled as he tossed her only civilian dress to her. “But they aren’t going to punish me for escorting a woman who has renounced her vows.”
“I would never shame myself or my family like that,” Unulasi almost laughed. The idea that she would just glide out into the night with a complete stranger was absurd. “I am not easily frightened. I take my vows seriously so seek elsewhere for your camp wife.”
“I’ll say for the last time,” the man smiled in the darkness. “I’ve done this before. Now get dressed or freeze.”